April 4, 2022
This plumbing checklist for homebuyers will help you to identify potential plumbing problems while searching for your new home.
You can easily look at and perform these plumbing inspection tips during your initial tour before making an offer. Once you enter into the due diligence period we recommend calling a licensed plumber to address any concerns and to perform a plumbing inspection. While this does not guarantee plumbing issues will not arise after closing, you will be better prepared and more informed about the plumbing issues to look for when buying a house.
Plumbing Issues to Look for When Buying a House:
The first item on our home plumbing inspection checklist is toilets. To inspect toilets, start by flushing every toilet in the house. Make note of any toilet that has a weak flush, runs too long, or is leaking around the bolts connecting the tank to the bowl. Remove the toilet lid and look around the bolts inside for rust spots. These are all common issues that are an easy fix by upgrading or rebuilding the toilet.
A gurgling noise after flushing a toilet is most commonly a sign of a blockage. Typically, if a toilet gurgles when flushed, there is a partial blockage that can usually be cleared with professional drain cleaning equipment.
After flushing the toilet, inspect the base of the toilet. Water, discoloration or soft spots on the floor or the bowl rocking when you sit down are indications that there could be a bad seal or the toilet flange is broken or improperly installed. If the problem has existed for an extended period of time, there could be water damage to the subfloor causing it to rot which would be more costly in mitigation and repair.
It is important to know the age and material of the water lines in a house you are looking to purchase. For more information on the pros and cons of different pipe materials and their average lifespan, check out our blog “The Most Common Types of Plumbing Pipes Used in Homes”. Be aware that some insurance companies may not provide coverage for a claim caused by certain types of pipe, or they may have a surcharge on your premium for antique piping.
Depending on the age and material of pipe used in the home, you may want to consider getting a quote to have a partial or full home repipe during the due diligence period. Antique pipes can cause more serious home issues down the line if not taken care of sooner rather than later. Keep in mind that drywall and paint repair will typically be done by a different contractor at an additional cost.
Before touring a house, become familiar with the signs of a water leak. Check the fittings where pipes join together to make sure they are not leaking and that the correct material is used when joining two different materials of pipe. Water damage can be very expensive to mitigate depending on the severity of the damage. Below are some of the most common signs of water leaks:
- Excessive moisture in the crawlspace
- Discoloration on the walls, ceilings or floor
- Soft soil patches in the yard
There are many aspects to consider when inspecting a water heater. It is always recommended to have a licensed plumber inspect the plumbing systems to ensure they are up to code.
- Age – The lifespan of a water heater is heavily dependent on the quality of water and the maintenance history. On average, a well maintained water heater in a location with high quality water can last 15 to 18 years.
- Location – When finding out the location of the water heater, take into consideration the following:
- What type of property damage would be caused if the water heater leaked?
- Is it located somewhere you feel comfortable inspecting periodically? Water heaters are typically located in a closet, garage, crawlspace or attic. Some of these spaces allow for leaks and other issues to go undetected longer.
- Visual inspection – A visual inspection of the water heater can give you a good indication of the condition it is in.
- Examine the heater for corrosion, rust or burn marks.
- Does the heater have an expansion tank? If an expansion tank is not installed, the warranties will typically be void which can cause the system to fail prematurely.
- Check the temperature and pressure relief valve for leaks and corrosion.
- The temperature should be set no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Shut Off Valves
Check for installation and functionality of the water shut off valve. In an emergency situation, it is important to make sure you are able to access and operate the shut off valve to prevent further damage.
Sewer or Septic
Find out if the home has city sewer or a septic tank/system.
If there is a septic tank, we highly recommend having it inspected. In North Carolina, this inspection is not under a plumbing license. You will need to have a different licensed contractor perform the inspection.
If the home has a sewer, we recommend having the sewer line inspected. This is done by running a camera through the sewer to diagnose what condition the pipes are in. If there are cracks, separations or roots, you may have to get a sewer repair or replacement.
There are a few signs that the sewer is not functioning properly that you can check for when touring a home.
- Sewer odor; especially around sinks and showers/tubs
- Water pooling in the crawlspace near the sewer lines
- Stains on the ceilings, floors or walls
- Check for evidence of leaks under all sinks
- Check every faucet, tub spout and shower head for water dripping, leaks and corrosion
- Check for slow draining sinks and tub/shower drains
- Check functionality of garbage disposal (if one is installed)